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Sex & Gender in Morocco
Sex & Gender In Morocco
In Morocco, male/female relationships are patterned differently than in western countries because gender roles are much more fixed. Family is the center of life in Morocco therefore it is not surprising that each sex has expectations that tie-in with raising children.
Females in Morocco are not discriminated against, however, upon reaching puberty (especially in small cities and villages) they are often separated with the intention of making sure that they stay virginal and to better prepare them for motherhood. In Morocco, getting married is considered one of the most important times in a woman’s life.
As a tourist, it’s important to maintain sensitivity to the differences between men and women. Public displays of affection are a taboo between men and woman. Kissing in public for example, should not be done. Couples you may see in the street walking near to each other or holding hand are typically married or possibly engaged in prostitution. While platonic friendships do exist between males and females, they are less common than in western countries. Since Morocco is a country that has had foreigners living among them for hundreds of years it is common to find less traditional differences between men and women in the larger cities such as Marrakesh and Casablanca. Still, as a traditional Muslim nation there are old fashioned and traditional values that must be respected.
Women in Morocco are stereotypically expected to take care of the home and family, engaging in activities such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, weaving, caring for the elderly and educating the children while the man is away at work. In their free time, women meet other societal expectations of visiting family, friends and attending evening prayer services at the local mosque or shrine. These roles also apply to women in the countryside, where agricultural duties are shared with their husbands. However in the countryside where you find Berber villages it is the women who often run the households and spend most of their time doing the agricultural work.
As a result of Morocco’s culture and traditions, women do not often accompany their husbands on social outings. With the exception of modern cities such as Casablanca and Marrakesh, it is not likely to see a co-ed group of Moroccans mingling in a local cafe or bar. In fact, female tourists withstanding, cafes and bars are traditionally limited to males.
In more traditional areas of the country and in some of the larger cities, women are also not supposed to smoke, travel alone or without parental consent, or be unaccompanied late at night.
Much of this is gradually changing as foreigners continue to make their lives in Morocco. Morocco is the home to a large population of British and French families along with many American, Germany and Spanish. As a result of foreigners relocating to make Morocco their permanent and others purchasing property for vacation homes or building riads, Morocco has become increasingly open.
Considering Morocco’s history, its occupation by the French and Portuguese, the country has become a melange of the novella (new) and the old. European contemporary influences on Moroccan traditional architecture, cuisine, fashion, film, music and decoration are leading the way to a new Morocco! The combination of these factors and increased tourism to this wonderful country has created a new world view which has been coined a Moroccocracy. By definition a Moroccacracy is the description of a 21st Century Morocco that has risen to take on democratic ideologies in its social and political culture and opened the door for a larger conversation with its European neighbors and American friends.
For the most part Moroccans are incredibly open-minded, especially in cities where tourism is common (Marrakesh, Casablanca, Fes, Essouaria, Rabat, Meknes, and Ouarzazate) and you will find it quite easy to have conversations with locals (in souks and hotels) about world politics, the cultural and historical traditions of Morocco and the economy. Moroccans who work in the tourism industry and in the souks tend to be multi-lingual and up to date on world politics. If you are a person who enjoys conversation during your travels you will find the opportunity to discuss many things within the souks and markets while you are shopping and being offered the traditional hospitality of mint tea.
If you are a female traveller in Morocco there is little to worry about as long as you maintain respectful dress and carry yourself appropriately, not making eye contact with men. The popularity of tourism caused the Moroccan economy undergo a process of liberalization and modernization, consequently altering some societal values. Today, Moroccan women are taking more active roles in the government, law, medicine warfare, and trade. There is also an increase in university enrolment among the younger generation, ultimately, leading to a more open-minded youth and a greater tolerance for modern ideas and western influences. Consequently, Moroccans are getting more used to seeing females (particularly tourists) visiting cafes and other places that were in the past were primarily frequented by men.
Tips for Female Travelers To Morocco
Don’t react to catcalls, whistles, or anything else directed at you.
Wear sunglasses to avoid direct eye contact with men when travelling during summer months.
Dress conservatively, no mini skirts, shorts, tank tops or tight shirts.
Enjoy the culture by becoming a participant and dress in a Caftan or Jellabah (the traditional robe worn by local women).
Don't go out on your own at night if you are not in a major city or area that is well lit.
If asked, let people know you are married and carry a photo of your 'husband' with you.
If you feel you are being harassed or followed, walk into a shop or hotel and ask for help.
If you are lost ask directions from a woman or family.
If you feel threatened by someone make a scene by shouting loudly to shame the person.
If you speak French, Spanish, or Arabic it will make it easier to stand up for yourself if you encounter undesirable behavior.
If it is possible, travel in a group of women or with a male. While tourists are welcome all over Morocco, Moroccans are still uncomfortable with the idea of a solo female traveler; with the exception of major cities.
Overall, Morocco is an amazing and most hospitable country therefore women travelling alone should not be afraid, just be sensible and cautious.
Gay and Lesbian Travelers To Morocco
While gay sex is officially illegal in Morocco, it does exist. As a result of Morocco’s traditions and culture to separate males and females, gay sex is not uncommon in Morocco.
However, gay travelers must keep in mind that gay resorts, such as those popular in Tangier and Marrakesh back in the 1950’s are gone. Also, although gay couples can be met throughout Morocco, it is unlikely to see a public display of affectionate gay interaction. In Morocco being gay is considered a social taboo. Yet, if you see two men holding hands, this is probably an indication of their friendship rather than their intimate relations.
If you do want to meet gay men in Morocco, you can do so at Morocco’s gay bars and discos (clubs). The annual Spartacus Gay Guide, available at bookstores in many western countries, indicates how to find gay sources of entertainment in Morocco.
With regards to lesbianism in Morocco, it is highly unlikely to encounter a woman who identifies herself as a lesbian.
Regardless of Morocco’s progressiveness, women are still expected to marry and raise children. The rules dictated by tradition and family for who a woman can choose as her partner is strict. Moroccan women are encouraged and rarely marry outside their faith. In particular, it is forbidden for Berber-Arab women to be married to French, Spanish or Jewish men. While there is definitely exceptions this is the accepted socio-cultural norm of Morocco. On the other hand, men are free to marry anyone they choose. Men in Morocco live a more unstructured life than women.